Sustaining Our Culture: Management and Access to Traditional Plants on Public Lands

Hosted by the Tulalip Tribes, October 12-13, 2011

An Inter-Tribal Gathering of Western Washington Treaty Tribes at the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve, Tulalip, Washington


For many Western Washington Treaty tribes, the reservation land base cannot, by itself, furnish foods, medicines, materials and certain physical landscapes to sustain our cultures.  Historically, these resources were spread over a very large area, from the high mountains to the coastal waters.  It is therefore important for tribes and public land managers to work together to ensure the sustainability of and access to these resources needed to perpetuate tribal culture for future generations.

The reason for this workshop is our growing concern for the continued supply and availability of plants that are integral to our culture, and the need to ensure commitment on the part of public land managers to provide for sustainable, harvestable plant populations and the meaningful exercise of tribal gathering rights.

The workshop was developed with these specific goals in mind:

  • To provide an opportunity for western Washington treaty tribes to share their concerns, successes and strategies to maintain and enhance plant gathering and cultural practices;
  • To foster dialogue between public land managers and Tribes regarding the important role of plants in Northwest tribal cultures, the legal basis for treaty gathering, and actions needed to ensure abundant, sustainable and tribally-accessible populations of culturally-important plants.
  • To consider the potential value of collective tribal action, as well as the role of tribal-agency partnerships in addressing plants management and access for tribal purposes on public lands.

The workshop was well received and we welcomed a wide audience, composed of tribal and agency leaders, legal and policy analysts, cultural specialists, natural resources staff, tribal gatherers, elders and youth.  We hosted a total of 116 representatives, from the diverse community of individuals who are working toward the common goal of sustaining both the tribal cultural practices and the resources and places they depend on, into the future.  There were 68 representatives from 20 different tribes and tribal consortia present.  Additionally, there were 28 participants from representing regional National Parks, National Forests and other government agencies, as well as 8 other participants from the museum, academic and legal fields.

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to host such a vibrant, knowledgeable and passionate group of people, who have worked hard to further the spirit of cooperation and continue collaboration in exercising plant gathering rights central to the perpetuation of tribal culture.

Workshop Planners & Steering Committee, 2011

Libby Halpin Nelson
Conference Coordinator
Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department, Treaty Rights Office
(360) 716-4639

Funding for this event was provided through a generous grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with additional funding from the Tulalip Tribes.